Armstrong warns renewal fund success lies in partnerships

12 Oct 00
Local government needs to ditch its narrow-minded approach to partnerships, local government minister Hilary Armstrong warned this week.

13 October 2000

Expanding on the newly announced Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, Armstrong said its success depended on councils setting up local strategic partnerships with the private sector, voluntary groups and service users.

However, many councillors and officers would find the partnerships 'a tough challenge', she said.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives in Liverpool, she warned: 'There is no place for insularity.'

She expressed concern at the lack of co-operation between councils. 'Neighbouring authorities see themselves as competitors rather than as people they can learn from.'

The government expects the £800m fund to encourage better partnerships.

Eighty-eight authorities will get extra cash to spend over three years on teachers, police officers, crime prevention programmes and social services.

'We aim to get away from a complicated system with dozens of different schemes and sources of cash. Instead we need to direct the main spending programmes towards the areas of greatest need,' she said.

First announced in the July Spending Review, the new fund will provide £100m in the first year, £300m in the second and £400m in the third.

The government believes the fund will help local authorities to meet their public service agreement targets for raising school standards, reducing unemployment, narrowing the health gap between deprived areas and improving the standard of social housing.

In a major shift in funding, ministers now expect the poorest areas to meet tough standards, which will trigger the non ring-fenced funding.

At the conference, Newport chief executive Sandy Blair turned the debate to government modernisation.

Armstrong conceded that there were mixed feelings over local government reform and considering whether she was 'starting to win the hearts and minds of elected members', she replied: 'You win some, you lose some.'


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